Change your attitude, change your life. Black Kid Owen Holmes tells JOANNA HUNKIN how his band mellowed out and made the big time
Struggling musicians, take note. If you want to make it big in the industry, you need to chill out, have a laugh, and add some spunky females to your line-up.
At least that was the secret to the Black Kids' success, according to
bassist and founding member Owen Holmes.
Hailing from Jacksonville, Florida - an area Holmes refers to as the
"Bible belt" - the bassist had spent close to a decade bouncing between bands, before he and his friends Kevin Snow and Reggie Youngblood teamed up as the Black Kids in 2006.
(No, it's not a racial reference. It means "absolutely nothing" according to Holmes. "We just decided it sounded pretty bitchin'.")
Looking for a point of difference, the 20-somethings soon enlisted Reggie's younger sister Ali and her best friend Dawn Watley to join the line-up.
"I don't know if it's a coincidence but that's when things kind of took off," says Holmes, speaking from Florida on a rare homeward visit.
"There's a different dynamic that they bring," he explains. "Obviously
they're interesting to look at, so the visual presentation is a little more exciting ..."
Of course, the key to success is a little more complex than just add girls. After 10 years of following the usual aspiring musician
path - touring small clubs and sending demo discs to every record label
imaginable - the guys decided to stop being so serious and relax a little.
"When we started to enjoy it for what it was and take it less seriously, we started to get attention," he explains.
"We started to use humour in our songs. The band Reggie and I had
immediately before Black Kids was good but it was much more sombre.
"I think we just got tired of taking it so seriously ... we don't want to be like a comedy act or anything, we don't want to be Flight of
the Conchords! But there's no reason to be so serious."
With songs like I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You and I've Underestimated My Charm (Again), their debut album Partie Traumatic stood out as much for its quirky titles
as its contagious disco rock, and revealed the group to be a rare breed - an indie band with a sense of humour.
Released in July, the record quickly found favour with fans and critics the world over, praised for its unique brand of "bling pop". But even before that, the band were making a name for themselves on the festival circuit and online, eventually coming to the attention of former Suede
guitarist and star producer Bernard Butler.
The man behind some of 2008's most successful records, including Duffy's
Rockferry, Butler added a Britpop polish to the band's already eclectic sound.
"Going into it, we were pretty much on the same page," says Holmes, who is still unsure how the American band ever came to the British producer's attention.
"Both parties love pop music. We didn't have these seven-minute jams or anything. Our songs pretty much follow a conventional pop format so he didn't have to overhaul any of our tunes.
"But he made some really cool sounds on the record. He got some great
instruments. And he's really good at getting the best from you, whether it be a guitar track or a drum track. He knows when to flex his muscle."
Already tipped as "ones to watch" by various media outlets, the band's growing fanbase sees them touring Downunder this month, joining the Big Day Out line-up.
Having spent Christmas back in Jacksonville, recording new material in between more traditional festivities, Holmes says the band might test out a new tune or two on Kiwi audiences.
"We're starting to work on [a second album] because some of the songs
on Partie Traumatic have been around for as long as three years. So we're eager to get some new material out there.
"Obviously people like to hear the tunes they know but we'll throw in a new song and maybe a cover of something."
Who: Black Kids - Reggie Youngblood (vocals/guitar), Owen Holmes (bass), Kevin Snow (drums), Dawn Watley (keyboards/vocals), Ali Youngblood (keyboards/vocals)
What: An indie band with a sense of humour
Sounds like: Delightfully chaotic, hearty, party fun with an 80s shine.
When: Orange Stage (main stadium) at 1pm.